NEWS
Thursday January 26 2017
Barca canter to Copa semis

Barcelona banished their Real Sociedad demons to reach the Copa del Rey semi-finals, rubber-stamped by a 5-2 win in Thursday’s quarter-final second leg.

Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta were injured for Barca, who led the tie by the single away goal. La Real, meanwhile, were boosted by the returns of Mikel Oyarzabal and Asier Illarramendi.

Barca found plenty of joy down the left in the early stages and consequently the opening goal as Luis Suarez’s flick-on released namesake Denis, who scored his second goal in as many games, angling a shot across Geronimo Rulli.

The goal did not come without controversy, however, as La Real had a man down in its build-up.

Nonetheless, a catalogue of errors in the Barca box by their defenders gifted the ball to Willian Jose on the volley, but the in-form striker couldn’t keep his acrobatic effort down.

Back to Barca, and the Catalans were furious that Carlos Vela wasn’t sent off. The Mexican went to slap the No 11 after the pair squared up, but referee Juan Martinez Munuera opted to book both players.

The first half may have been a muted affair, but the same couldn’t be said for the second.  Willian Jose kicked things off by missing a sitter from point-blank range after he was laid off in the Barca box by Vela.

The hosts immediately broke back through Neymar and won a penalty through Inigo Martinez’s desperate lunge on the Brazilian, which Messi slotted past Rulli.

More poor defending, this time at the other end, saw Javier Mascherano let substitute Juanmi run straight past him and lob a helpless Jasper Cillessen.

Yet just as quickly as Juanmi got away from Mascherano, Messi threaded through Suarez, who found the back of Rulli’s net with a pinpoint finish.

A cross then came into La Real’s box from the right for Messi to stab home, but the No 10 failed to make sufficient connection with the ball.

The onus returned to Barca’s defending, or the lack of it, and none of their players pressed to stop a cross from going in. Willian Jose took full advantage with a bullet header past Cillessen.

Still, Luis Enrique’s side had Messi’s magic to fall back on, and the Argentine embarked on one of his trademark mazy dribbles, pulling to the left of Rulli’s goal, but had his shot blocked on the line by Asier Illarramendi.

Lucho swapped Neymar for Arda Turan, and the Turk wasted no time in rewarding his Coach’s faith and becoming the highest-scoring La Liga midfielder with 13 goals as he slid a cutback home at Rulli’s back post just minutes after his introduction.

A minute later, fantastic vision from Messi saw him jink past two visiting players and play in Denis, who rounded the goalkeeper and finished into an empty net.

Juanmi proceeded to fire an outswinging shot inches wide, but the Barca juggernaut seemed to be well and truly back in business.

Andre Gomes, in arguably his best performance to date for Barca, fooled the Real backline with a backheel, which Suarez picked up, but the No 9’s shot was blocked.

Messi should’ve had a penalty in the dying embers of the match when he was clearly pulled back in the visitors’ box by Raul Navas, but it didn’t stop Barca from reaching the Copa semi-finals for a third time under Lucho and eliminating successive Basque opponents.

Barcelona 5-2 Real Sociedad (6-2 agg.)

Denis 17, 82, Messi pen 55, Suarez 63, Arda 80 (B) Juanmi 62, Willian Jose 73 (RS)

Barcelona: Cillessen; Sergi, Pique, Umtiti, Alba (Vidal 46); Denis, Mascherano (Rakitic 66), Gomes; Messi, Suarez, Neymar (Arda 75)

Real Sociedad: Rulli; Aritz (Odriozola 76), Navas, Inigo, Yuri; Illarra, Prieto; Vela (Juanmi 57), Zurutuza (Canales 57), Oyarzabal; Willian Jose

Referee: Martinez Munuera

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